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Waxman Wants To Know About National AIDS Mailing

September 23, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A House subcommittee chairman said Wednesday he will ask the General Accounting Office to find out what has happened to a national mailing on AIDS for which Congress appropriated money last spring.

’It looks like the money’s been impounded and the booklet has not been sent out,″ said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health. ″We’re going to ask the GAO to do an investigation of it.″

Some $20 million was appropriated last spring for AIDS education efforts. Waxman and others say most of the money was supposed to be used for a mailing to every household in the United States during fiscal 1987, which ends Sept. 30.

Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of Waxman’s subcommittee, called the situation ″a real clear case of (the administration) not putting in place an aggressive educational campaign that Congress intended... These were appropriated funds. The administration should not have to be brought kicking and screaming to doing this education program.″

Wyden said he is worried that ″instead of having educational activities going on in the period that Congress intended, they will be put off until some time in the future and more lives will be lost.″

In a Sept. 22 letter to Sen. Lawton Chiles, D-Fla., Health and Human Services Secretary Otis Bowen said the money appropriated by Congress is being used for many educational purposes. Among other things, he cited an advertising agency contract, an AIDS hotline, an AIDS clearinghouse, distribution of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s report on AIDS, and education grants to state and local health departments, businesses and non- profit groups.

Bowen said his department is proceeding with plans to distribute a national mailing but he said it wouldn’t be ready by October - AIDS Awareness and Prevention Month - because ″the time required to develop the materials and to arrange logistical support was not adequate.″

The secretary also told Chiles that the White House Domestic Policy Council, which is headed by conservative Gary Bauer, has suggested that the president’s AIDS commission ″should be involved in discussion concerning a mailing to American households.″

Review of a booklet designed by the Centers for Disease Control for mailing to U.S. households was on the agenda at the first meeting of the AIDS commission earlier this month. But commission spokesman Don McLearn said the panel decided it was too late to play a role and bowed out of the process.

″We are not holding it (the mailing) up in any way, shape or form,″ McLearn said. ″It was felt that it being the 11th hour for that project, that it wouldn’t be very worthwhile to start commenting on the nature of the booklet.″

Efforts to implement a national education campaign have been hampered by disagreements within the administration over how graphic to make the materials and how best to advise people on ways to avoid contracting the fatal disease.

Witnesses at a hearing Tuesday said the United States, with more than 40,000 AIDS cases, compares unfavorably to other nations which have a less serious problem but have already spent millions on media campaigns, mailers, educational materials and other ways to inform their citizens about the disease.

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